France on a plate with food writer Alec Lobrano

Tue May 6, 2014 7:03am EDT
 
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - When Alexander Lobrano looks at a map of France, menus and markets immediately spring to mind.

It is a fitting Pavlovian response for this food and travel writer whose latest book, "Hungry for France," (Rizzoli) introduces a new generation of young cooks exercising their culinary creativity in the provinces.

After years of eating his way through the bistros of Paris - an enviable task that culminated in his 2008 "Hungry for Paris" - the Connecticut native and former European correspondent for Gourmet magazine opted to leave the capitol behind for his second book.

Part travelogue, part memoir, the book with stunning photographs by Steven Rothfeld includes profiles of carefully chosen restaurants and recipes like "Pan-seared John Dory with Rhubarb and Blue Crab Jus" and "Lemon Verbena-Cherry Clafoutis."

Delightful also are the descriptions of the eating itself, whether Lobrano biting into a runny Saint-Marcellin cheese at a Lyon market ("the dripping lactic velvet smelled very lightly of wet straw") or savoring langoustines in Brittany ("once I'd tasted the tight little curl of tender, sweet, sea-kissed meat in one of their crunchy, easily opened tails, a permanent craving was born").

Q: As a self-described "man who travels to eat" you talk about a formative visit to Lyon in the late 1980s to eat in the meat-heavy "bouchers". That trip whetted your appetite for French regional cooking and the chefs who make it happen.

A: That was my epiphany. I went down there and learned a lot of things that weekend. I was so spellbound by Paris but it suddenly occurred to me, I'm not just in Paris, I've got this whole country! So every time there was a holiday weekend, I'd go to Bordeaux, or go to Nice, or Strasbourg, or wherever it was. What I quickly found was that a lot of parts of the country that no one ever talks about are the ones that are absolutely enchanting, have unbelievably good food and interesting history.   Continued...

 
American food critic and travel writer Alexander Lobrano poses with his latest book "Hungry For France" in Paris, April 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Christian Hartmann